Archery in the Schools

When the National Archery in the Schools Program began in 2002 as a local program in a handful of  Kentucky schools, no one foresaw the mushrooming success that lay ahead. The program soon went national (more than 40 state’s have schools participating in the NASP) and then international.

When the national NASP tournament convenes in Louisville, Ky., May 6-8, more than 3,000 high, middle and elementary school students will be in attendance.

But why wait? That many will file into Louisville’s International Convention Center next week (March 22-23) for the Kentucky state NASP tournament.

“We’ll have more than 3,000 students representing 140 Kentucky schools,” Kentucky state NASP coordinator Jennie Richardson.

That’s not all. Richardson says 340,000 Kentucky school kids compete in the archery program each school day as part of their school’s PE curriculum. That includes 920 schools. More than 500 of those have after school archery programs.

The program’s success has exceeded all expectations. What does this mean? Well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that schools are churning out the next generation of archery hunters. The NASP shoots Olympic style target archery. Kids may hunt and they may not. Hunting is neither pushed, promoted or discouraged.

It does means that physical education programs can be fun and provide something that many kids desperately need: A vehicle to succeed. Kids who might not be able to dunk (or dribble) a basketball, catch a football, block a punt, hit a home run, throw a strike, field a ground ball, score a soccer goal or run down a fly ball and find success in archery. They can do it.

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Turkey season opens in about a month (April 17 in Kentucky). Time to start getting ready.

Turkeys can be notoriously frustrating to hunt but they are fairly predictable critters. While lovesick juvenile birds will range far in search of a mate, mature birds typically stick fairly close to their home ranges. Where you saw them last year is likely where you’ll see one this year.

Scouting should be done judicially. I once heard George Wright, the renowned turkey biologist and researcher who was the architect of Kentucky’s turkey restoration (around 2,000 birds statewide in 1978 to about 250,000 today) say that the best thing you could do to get ready for turkey season was to stay out of the woods. George preached road side scouting: watching and listening to locate birds but basically staying out of the woods until opening morning. You could find birds by listening, he claimed, and the gobblers weren’t going anywhere.

This was and remains good advice but I hardly ever follow it because I like to stomp around in the woods searching for sign and basically pretending I’m a better woodsman than I am.

George had another piece of advice and I hardly ever follow but should: Call softly and call seldom. When I get a bird in my neighborhood I tend to call often and loudly. Said bird then usually leaves quickly and quietly.

I’ve had some non-hunting friends ask, “Isn’t turkey hunting dangerous?”

Well,  no, at least no more than most things. Just hunt safe and apply a few basic rules: Be certain of your target. Be certain of your target. And be certain of your target.

Hatteras Blues

I’ve been re-reading Hatteras Blues: A Story from the Edge of America by Tom Carlson.

If you are unfamiliar with this splendid book, published in 2005 by The University of North Carolina Press, it’d be worth your time to find a copy. It is part memoir, part personal quest, part history, part love story, part survival story, part fishing story; tightly woven and keenly written. With this effort Carlson matches the best in the business: Hemingway, Melville, Maclean . . . anyone.

For the sake of full disclosure I have a little history with the author. Dr. Tom Carlson was one of my English professors at the University of Memphis (Memphis State, when I attended) and he was as masterful in the classroom as he proved to be on a trout stream. He made American literature spring to life and did the same for fishing stories told around the campfire.

Beyond the classroom we became friends; fished together and camped together.

The first time I read Hatteras Blues I thought it was basically a book about the Outer Banks and the evolution of that unique region and fishery. And it is that. But it’s more. It’s a family story (Carlson’s and the Foster’s).  It’s about death and survival; emotional and physical.

But at its core Hatteras Blues is about the men who make us who we are. For Tom it was Jake Sanwald, Doc Meeker, Rocky Luciano, Stan Osborne, Bart Osborne, George Minier and Ed Frazee. For me it was Sam and L. D. and Jack and Ralph, Archie and Archie Jr., and a few others.

As you read Hatteras Blues – especially Chapter 7 and in particular the story on pages 124-5 – you’ll undoubtedly recall your own list of souls who helped mould yours.

Hatteras Blues is available in hardcopy and paperback from the publisher, Amazon and other booksellers.

Shore Lunches

Mark Twain is often credited with having made the astute observation that, “Nothing improves scenery like ham and eggs.” Twain at times stretched the truth. But I can personally attest that ham and eggs does improve almost any landscape.

I don’t know if Mr. Twain was a fishermen but if he was he certainly must have appreciated one of fishing’s most delightful fringe benefits. I’m talking about shore lunches.

My personal version of the shore lunch is basically a sandwich, apple and bottle of water stuffed into the rear pouch of my vest. Not the most creative of lunches but filling none the less.

Several years ago my late father-in-law, Wallace Peebles, and his wife along with two friends made a trip from their home in Missouri to Arkansas’ Norfork River for a couple of days of trout fishing. I never doubted that the story was true even though it was somewhat hard for me to imagine. Wallace loved to fish but he rarely traveled far from home to do it.

They caught plenty of trout and generally had a fine time. But the thing he seemed to remember most vividly from the trip was the shore lunch; something I assume he’d never before experienced. After a morning on the river the guide nosed the boat into the bank, cleaned the trout, opened a couple of cans of beans, cut up a pile of potatoes, threw in some onions and generously poured on the pepper. He then fired up a portable stove, skillet-fried the spuds, warmed the beans and deep fried the trout. The group feasted in the warm sunshine on the banks of that beautiful river. It became the memory of the trip.

Maybe shore lunches were invented in Arkansas. I recently returned from a trip to Arkansas’ White River where the trout fishing was fantastic. The outing was hosted by Gaston’s White River Resort and the fishing action varied from good to phenomenal depending on if the fishing tactic was fly, hard baits or baited shrimp.

Even this, however, was overshadowed by the shore lunch prepared by one of the resort’s cooks, Dennis Coker (pictured), and two assistants. They served up piles of trout, chicken, biscuits, friend potatoes and baked beans; topped by cherry cobbler. Nothing elaborate nor fancy but hot, delicious and plenty of it. Between the fishermen, guides and cooks 33 men eventually bellied up to the table. No one left hungry.

Sometime the fish bite (they did on the White). Other times they don’t Regardless, the meal on the river is usually the linchpin that pulls it all together.

It was not my first shore lunch. I pray it won’t be my last.

Day 2 on the White

Spent the morning in the kitchen at Gaston’s White River Resort with Dennis, the cook, who used to be chief bottle washer for the resort (he worked his way up from dishwasher).

I was learning how they plan and prepare a shore lunch for 33 people. Interesting.

Spent the afternoon with guide Chuck Meyers and Ben Post fly fishing with small jigs under a strike indicator

Caught a few and spotted a splendid bald eagle.

Our friend DIck Kaukas stay behind and caught a dozen trout along the shore. He probably had the best deal of the day.